(Post by nerdbastards fan and #1 commenter Mark Poynter, a.k.a Mordrun)
You’re unemployed, stressed like Hell, beating the bushes for work, and trying to save money while maintaining your sanity. What’s a nerd to do? Keep looking for work. It sucks out there for the jobless nerd. (I should know, I’ve been there since December of 2009.) Do the annoying, seemingly, unending work it takes to find that job, pound the pavement at the job fairs, search and apply on those job web sites. Update your Facebook; you never know who might know the person that has a job for you. That takes care of the basics of your job hunt. What can you do about maintaining your sanity while guarding your wallet?
How to get your nerd on: on a budget.
1. Weekly Comics
Weekly new comics are most likely the first thing to go when your wallet tightens. (My biggest nerd sacrifice has been my comics. I used to spend about $50 to $100 a week at my local comic book store on new comics and statues and such. Now I spend nada, can’t afford it.) Figure out what you can afford. You can drop your pull list down to those must have titles. If you find, you can’t afford to keep getting any weekly comics because of the cost, try the fifty-cent boxes for forgotten treasures. Every comic book store has them. You can get your comic book fix every other week without breaking your wallet.
If you have a good relationship with your local comic shop owner, you could volunteer to work a day or two during the week helping out in exchange for comics. When taking this approach, offer to help with back stocking new comics, listing and mailing items on Ebay, and even cleaning the shop’s restrooms. Take note of the “bothersome chores” around the comic shop that have to get done, but really suck to do. While your helping out with those bothersome chores, the shop owner can focus on selling stuff, or just enjoy that he doesn’t have to do those anymore. (I used to promote new games by being available to teach and play games in the back. I got to learn new games, find people to play them with, and get some store credit on the side.)
2 – 5. Books, DVDs, Graphic Novels, Internet Access
Your local Library can help with a number of the typical Nerd needs. Books, Graphic novels, DVDs, Internet access, and local interest groups. Check your local library out. You will be pleasantly surprised. Often overlooked libraries across the country have struggled to stay relevant in this internet age, many have found great ways to provide services and selections that you wouldn’t have seen ten, or even five years ago. Why spend money when you can cruise by the library, grab that book your favorite website mentioned, a DVD to watch, a graphic novel that was just out of your price range, and sign up for a group to discuss the latest Star Wars book. If what you wanted is checked out, be sure to sign up for the waiting list, most libraries will call you when it’s available.
One important note about libraries, MAKE SUGGESTIONS! The library will stock what brings in people. If they don’t have Graphic novels, suggest some titles. You could even make a donation of some of your favorites to get the ball rolling.
Don’t forget the books you already own. Reread a book or series that you love, or borrow one that you have never felt you had the time for. (I’ve found that I get different perspectives on books I loved, but haven’t read in years.) It can be like a warm hug after a long day of rejection and it costs you zip. (My usual cost is a couple of cokes and a can of lightly salted cashews.)
There are a couple of old standbys to getting into a convention without breaking any of the laws of man, or performing unspeakable acts on convention security.
First, ask your local comic shop if they have any “extra” tickets or if they need any help. For the cost of one admission the shop could have your help in packing up at the shop, setting up at the convention, an agreed upon amount of time working during the convention, help with packing up when the convention ends, and restocking the store with what didn’t sell. You could learn a lot, have a good time, and get your convention fix.
7. Computer and Console Gaming
Computer and Console gaming can go from free, to costing an arm and a leg in about the time it takes Han Solo to decide to shoot first and clean up later. The trick is to look at the different types of games available, and find ways to enjoy them without breaking your bank.
There’s always the trade-in for your console game at the local game store. Ebay is another way to turn old games into cash for new games. Check web sites and game platform sites for weekly or special sales, STEAM does a great job with weekly sales on new and old games, sometimes up to 75% off retail. (I find that a quick game of Call of Duty Multi-player online really helps me shed the stress of the day’s job hunt.)
There are many fun browser games that use the “Pay to get better stuff” method. The variety is endless, you can find medieval, pirate, space battle, shooter, you name the type and someone is developing a browser game for it. In fact if you find one that hasn’t been made, you should make it yourself! Browser games: you can play for free, still put up the good fight, and have fun without spending money.
Last but not least, revisit the games you loved, but this time play them to explore the game and not just get to the end as fast as you can. (I finished Fallout III and went back months later to try a different approach, I had a blast!)
8. A Night at the Movies
Unless you live in a van down by the river, you know that movie prices have been going through the roof. Ticket prices for a regular new movie around Atlanta, Ga. are as high as $10.50. Add $1.50 if you want to buy those tickets ahead of time over the net. Throw in 3-D or IMAX and add another $2 to $5 dollars to the mix. Throw in a Diet Coke and some popcorn, and you might want to consider selling a kidney to cover the cost. Check with that guy that lives in the van down by the river, I heard he knows someone in the black market kidney business.
Let’s face it, some movies have to be seen in a theater, even the big screen at home won’t do. You’re unemployed, so why not go to the movies during the day? (I love an almost empty theater.) You can usually half the ticket cost by going before 2 P.M..
Dollar Theaters: There are many older theaters that show movies for a dollar. Just stay away from the concession stand, wear pants with deep pockets, visit the grocery store on the way, tell the ticket guy that you’re just happy to see him, and you’re good for an hour or two of entertainment. (I couldn’t even regret seeing Jonah Hex for a buck.)
9, Board / Card Gaming
The great thing about board and card games is that once you have it, that’s usually the extent of the cost. A wait . . . there is add-ons, expansions, update, and any other thing the game developers can come up with to get into your wallet. One way around this is to start a gaming group, usually friends that you spend a night gaming with once or twice a month. Everyone gets games they like and shares them on game night. This way you get a variety of games to play, without having to buy them all. Don’t know or have a lot of friends that game? Check your local game or comic shop. Most will have a board advertising gaming groups or game nights. Try it, you might make new friends as well as get your gaming hunger fed.
One word of advice on gaming groups or going to gaming nights at your local shop. You are going to meet all kinds of people, Polite ones, smelly ones, rude ones, creepy ones, really cute ones, and everything other type that I didn’t mention. Be cool, be yourself, and don’t look the creepy one directly in the eye, you’ll be fine.
10. Get Creative
Try your hand at what you like. Try writing your own comic, novel, or screen play. Nothing will make you appreciate the pros more than finding out how hard, and satisfying it can be to create something new. (I like reading and sharing my opinion on what I read. Next thing you know I am writing and submitting articles . . . go figure.)
It doesn’t have to be writing, try drawing, game design, costuming, prop construction, sculpting, whittling, just get creative. You don’t have to become some kind of professional and get a job in that industry. Most likely you won’t, but finding an outlet for your creative side can change your life. You will be pleasantly surprised with the peace, confusion, and even consternation that come from finding a creative outlet that can suddenly wipe away your worries, and the day to day crap that grinds your sanity.
Writing this article has become my newest way to maintain my nerd while I rough out this jobless patch. I’m sure there are other great ideas on saving money while getting your nerd on, let’s hear yours in the comments!